The Secret Cinema's Curator's Choice 2015
The Maas Building, 1325 N. Randolph St., 8 p.m. Friday. Admission $8
. Culled "from the deepest depths of Secret Cinema's film vaults," it's the first program from Philadelphia's long-running series since Jay Schwartz, its founder and self-described caretaker, was hospitalized in a bicycle accident last fall. A restored mid-19th-century brewery and trolley repair shop turned art and event space is the new venue. The show is packed with rarities both historic and hysterical, ranging from a 1909 D.W. Griffith short starring Mary Pickford to a promo film for British Invasion band Herman's Hermits, from a 1940s "stag" film to a Boris Karloff-narrated '60s doc about wild youth called "Today's Teens."
As always, Schwartz presents his films on a trusty 16 mm projector - no digital video stuff happening here. For more info: www.thesecretcinema.com
Dark Sparkler Amber Tamblyn Harper Perennial 128 pp., $19.99. Actress and poet Tamblyn combines her twin passions in this collection of free-verse portraits of tragedy-scarred actresses, both famous and forgotten. Tamblyn riffs (well, more than riffs - some of these poems are immersive) on sex goddesses Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, on doomed beauties Sharon Tate and Frances Farmer, on more contemporary star-crossed stars (Brittany Murphy, Rebecca Schaeffer). In "Susan Peters," Tamblyn tries out a sensuous ode to the MGM starlet whose career was cut short by a hunting accident that left her in a wheelchair. In "Jean Harlow," the poet addresses the 1930s screen siren's black-and-white world ("she smiles like the opening of a piano lid") and how "the beginning of Technicolor/meant the end of/but blood dried on the hospital sheets/will always be." (Not really - shouldn't there be a laundry service?)
Some of Tamblyn's poems come with illustrations by the likes of Adrian Tomine, Marilyn Manson, and David Lynch. The poet's father, Russ Tamblyn was a key cast member in Lynch's Twin Peaks, and several e-mail communiqués between "Papa" and daughter are published in the book's busy epilogue.
A Most Violent Year Lionsgate DVD and Blu-ray. Set in 1981 New York, in a winter marked by crime, grime, and unflattering jogging outfits, J.C. Chandor's Sydney Lumet-style drama stars Oscar Isaac as an enterprising, upright businessman trying to make a go of it while the competition (in the heating oil biz) and the D.A.'s office are bearing down. Jessica Chastain stands by her man - up to a point. But even she starts looking at him like maybe he's not man enough for the job. Beautifully acted, just shy of great. A compelling, suspenseful drama.